Life is segmented by memories, they make up the DNA of our years and mark chapters of who we are and what and where we have been. Towards the end we all converge, like a notch in a mountain, a watershed ravine that spills to a river that swaddles and wonders towards a bigger ending, both a berth and a death.
I read, the pointed truths of those before me, with more education and a greater knowledge of vocabulary vernacular, but story tellers all are wishers and wonderers, all lovers of rivers and all with an internal twist for expression.
I recall a memory often of mine, maybe because it was full of fear, full of unknown and full of loneliness, defiance, effort and it marks my family perfectly.
I rode the Tour Divide in 2011, I started with a young man who I wish would’ve let me persuade him to who he is, but we all have destinations and disappointments, and those lesson he’s learned many lifelong assentation’s from. Now it’s a footnote to a long list of accomplishments, and for that, I’m deeply proud of the individual he’s become. Every failure is a window to future success.
I rode 90 percent alone, some 2,915 miles and 217,00 feet of climbing once Taylor sought a different path, I had some mechanical issues that needed time and that too left me trailing most. I wanted to ride in truth the ethos of the event, little help, little hotels and isolation. I read a lot of Norman MacLean, his family had a summer cabin in Seeley Lake Montana. The days leading up to that spot on the map where filled with cold nights, snow hikes, chilly rain and bears, a lot of bears.
On the run in towards Seeley Lake I encountered a typical Montana rain storm that I knew from growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was experiencing the mild humbling’s of hypothermia to only find a laundry mat/restaurant at 5 a.m. My buddy stopped early, I walked in Snow for hours upon hours to the idea of Sasquatch, hunger and death. I really had no idea the true distance, nor did I want to, the idea of the next town was fuel, and my large imagination ran rampant on the idea of soft chairs, strong drinks and food.
You go through many epiphany’s in doing such an effort, you become manic in moods, they are marked on either end of the truest high, and the lowest low. My night in the Rockies of Montana, the closest I’d been to home where lonely and frightful, I saw well over 30 bears on my ride through the Forrest service road towards Owl Creek and the outskirts of Seeley Lake.
I had been awake and moving since Whitefish Montana and the massive rain storm, lying in a simple gor-tex bivvy I laid under a property sign hoping for some coverage, the tall summer grass laid over me and blanketed me in wetness, the bivy sunk from the pools of water and sat in my mouth attempting to suffocate me. I was once Closter phobic but, commercial fishing cured me of such nonsense, I pulled my shit together and rode to a gas station in town, stripped naked and blasted the hand harmer all over my frozen hands and man parts, life wasn’t good.
Waterproof maps soaked through and ruined, batteries corroded over, spirits where sunk and absolutely nothing was dry. I spent half the morning with everything in the dryer, then pushed off into the wilderness, off towards a destinations I’ve always wanted to see. The miles where long, with little stops but cute little churches, tiny A framed buildings of faith I knew people needed in this country, all painted white and coming to a cross over the doors.
A late afternoon sun broke through and shone on the green mountain next to me as I covered easy flat miles, it reminded me of home and the hills and roads I grew up in, my mood changed. A little gas station a ways off the track then the road to Seeley Lake, I had caught up to the South Africans, Luke and Meriam, really nice people doing it right. Somewhere during the miles we spit up in the long steady climb up. I had an old shitty blackberry phone and reception sucked, so I never had constant service or communication on who’s in front or behind, or little rest stops that others could search for.
I rode on, alone towards town some 75 miles away, I came to a clearing after seeing the most bears I’ve ever seen, including Alaska. The Montana Rocky Mountains laid over my right shoulder, it was nearly 10 pm but still light out, snow shouldered their slopes and gave a hint of white to the dark blue and grey mountains, the light was soft and the hue of some daylight hung in the air. I heckled at bears like you would cows, “hey bear”, “hey bear” ushering them out of your line, they were fat from a good spring, and my contraption was odd and they slowly meandered off the road. I rode in the dusk towards midnight, I had slept maybe three hours the day before and was done. At this point I still had my jet boil so I made some tea, romin and tried to calm myself about sleeping in the valley of bears. I found a random campsite and took that as an omen, it was complete with a built shitter, a water spigot and two picnic tables, one I slept under, life was good.
I woke up in the pre-dawn hours, looking over at eye level frosted grass I saw three bears no more than 20 yards away. I rolled my head back over, back to the down and synthetic warmth of safety and closed my eyes wishing they would see something different. I again turned to my right and saw three bears loaming about, I waited a second, noticed the bent forms of heavy bladed grass cursed with the weight of frost, I still had some of last night’s food in my mouth and gathered a plan. I moved and the crinkle of the bivvy and frost caused them to look at me, I stared at them in my most evil, don’t fuck with me alpha male look/please don’t eat me. They rambled off at the odd animal under a table and a pile of gear on top of it, occasionally all of us would look at each other, gauging, judging what we should do, I loaded up my gear on the bike, pedaled off and starred at bears.
I made my way to the outskirts of Seeley Lake, from gravel to pavement where the dirt road shot up mud till I reached pavement. I saw a long row of US flags at a cemetery and swerved my bike across, a list of those gone but not forgotten proudly remembered. The town had grown from what I had read about it, but those where the 20-30’s and in his last book, “young men and fire”. I found the first diner I could, rolled my bike up and fiddled with equipment as the waitress brought hot food an drinks, it was here I found that my camera charger could charge my ipod and for the first time during my ride I could have tunes. My spirits began to sore, I had a belly of food, a plan of action to Lincoln Montana, and beyond. The South Africans joined me on my last round, and as well all reveled in our experience I paid my tab, saw my music device fully charged and was stoked to cover miles.
It is a process to load up your bike and gear stash, and I was still a rookie at this point. In gathering my things and making my way to the door I saw a twin to my brother, we locked eyes and he began to make his way to me. It took me awhile to realize that it indeed was my brother, it had been nearly five years since I had seen him, my dad had joked that he would find me when I “ride my bike” at the time telling them of the trip it didn’t really sink in till we started, then they realized the scope of what we were doing.
Josh came up to me and said we’ve been trying to find you for days, you had some shit weather. He said Dad was across the street, I hadn’t seen my father since I moved to Arizona. I walked outsided, past my loaded up bike and looking north across the street was a grey haired man looking to leap frog through traffic. He came up to me and for a second there was a brief awkwardness of side hug or full hug. I waited till he was done looking at my bike so we were shoulder to shoulder for a good solid hug. The last couple of days where the most trying mentally and physically for me, and for the first time in a long time I felt the security of having your father there, even if it was for a moment, the security, the piece of mind, it righted me for the rest of the trip.
He didn’t have a smart phone, so he was in contact with my mom back in Snohomish about where I was and how to find me, distant GPS signals and no name towns and then, boom, a reunion. We had a brief conversation, I needed to make use of the sunlight and good roads, we had agreed to meet in Lincoln. It was 80 or so miles to meet back up, I had tunes in my ears and The head and the heart played as I left the nostalgia of seeing my dad in half a decade, my brother was healthy and present, I rode along a swollen river to see them again, through a couple small towns and asked them to stay open for the South Africans, through fields being irrigated by rolling sprinklers leaving a mist that laid at the foot of the mountains, past the big Blackfoot river where MacLean fly fished and I stopped and took a pic of tombstones rising up like shark fins in the flooded waters, his staccato matched my cadence and gave further song to the ride.
The last little bit of ride to Lincoln is pavement, alongside it was a creek cut deep into the earth, a beautiful sunny ride, my first in Montana, I rolled into town and heard “PETTIT”, “HEY, PETTIT”, “JONNYP” and there as promised sat my dad and brother, hanging out waiting for my meandering ass. I had to do laundry again from the muddy roads, we ate together and then I wanted to push off, but he waitress had other plans, she showed us the dumpster out back where a bear had shoved it open, a grizzly to be exact. So instead of covering ground I stayed with my family and we talked for hours, and to some to not see each other for years is odd, for me and us, its normal. We got caught up as big mosquitos bumped my a bear totem pole outside the hotel, the late night air was much lighter than the day before, here, with my dad and brother I was awash in safety and familiarity.
In the morning we had breakfast, we shared a room and they both snore beyond control, a large part of me wanted solidarity, to experience the divide as it comes, but I knew these days are few and rare. I stayed longer than I should at breakfast and enjoyed them for who they are, I knew a long lonely day awaited me and maybe we would meet up again, but here, in Lincoln, we were perfect, and together, a beautiful sunrise had greeted us, there was no, “you should call more” just love. Love for me being me, love for them being them, I had a 20-30 mile climb ahead of me and at the top, surrounded by myself, I stopped at the beauty of all that was around, in the snow and wind, with the pines and dirt, it was the only time I cried on the entire trip.
My dad has since had some health issues, and my brother is dealing with issues that I don’t know how to speak of, but I know he’s more than what he has been, and certainly more than who he is right now. I sit in the sun and he sits somewhere remarkably different, past failures are a window to success, we don’t have to be limited to our past and we have to have the imagination and integrity to become what we imagine, all I really know is, when I was the most scared and lonely, my family was there, and approaching the 40 mark I should probably let them know more often, they’ve always laid a path for me to get where ever I’ve ever wanted, and that, is beautiful. I rode than damn long stretch of trail, I saw them again and it brought us back together.
As should bikes, effort and forever seeking limits and truth should.
I was coerced recently into a conversation spun by a magician of mankind. Before I had realized what had happened I was pried open as he was licking his fingers searching for the cliff notes to some of the worst and greatest chapters to date. His monologue was remarkable clear, honest and truthful. And for some goddamn reason I can’t let it out of my thoughts.
An educated man I proudly suffer for, and still can’t believe our paths had crossed to the depths they have, it’s a relationship I would’ve thought impossible years ago. Back then we’d be two curious anomalies sniffing each other out all the while thinking that’s how the other half lives, they’re more fucked up than me.
Wealth, was an unknown to me until I had finished high school. Although my experiences and pride in what and where I’ve been had usually left me with enough brass to allow me to hang in any situation. It took me over thirty years to realize more importantly wealth isn’t just a comma in bank accounts but structure of family, relationships and bonds. Those had always alluded me, the only true bond I knew was a love of bikes, being outside and seeing remarkable things and the kind that kept my ass out of jail. We all see in perfect view our past, and most feel the need to insulate themselves in moving forward. I’ve always prefered to feel the burn or chill , feel the effort exerted from my body and watch veins of effort rise and collapse.
What he’d seen in a couple years and hours spent stuck to my wheel was the most concise advice I had heard. “Let all that go” he said a few times, and while he doesn’t know everything he knows enough and mixed with a gifted brain and time to think, I already knew he was right. “You have to allow yourself to be proud of who you’ve become, what you’ve done and allow yourself that confidence”
Hearing a man that I hold in such high regard say that to me brought a wave of emotion that crested behind my eyes. He isn’t perfect, nor his family or some beliefs, but he’s human. His body has been riddled with ailments that would kill 99% of cockroaches but he’s still here, busy as ever, pouring miles into his legs and riding with his boys, I feel the same crescendo of emotion knowing that I’ve become one of “his” boys as I did when he actually spent earnest time thinking of me.
I’m lucky to have had three remarkable men of all different walks of life lend me parts of them. Oceans, fathers, patriarchs and of course bikes, but more importantly personalities. I had countlessly given myself to people not deserving of my loyalty, compensation and time. I allowed all the things that don’t matter come before those that do, and sometimes it takes the smartest guy you know to remember to smell the flowers and allow gratitude and time to look around.
I was fractured when I came here. I had a half broken cross bike, a couple dollars in my hand and an idea that I knew that I was more than my years, that the internal drive was grinding on plates and a new range was going to be formed out of sheer effort and time like those backbones of mountains I love so much.
A 16 penny galvanized nail held a shimano ultegra shifter together, bent down towards the bottom of the hood causing a caules to form and blood to drip while sprinting or climbing, or just riding the shitty asphalt and gravel I began the reclamation on. I was really never even that good back then, I was a creature of places and experience, my friends put in honest hours and time and where a ways a head of me, but I was free, I was alive and I saw tons more than they did in their suffocating state of anarobia. I rode myself from 210 to 200, 200 to 190 and hovered there for a year. Then morphed another 5 pounds and now average around 178-185 depending on habits and miles. My shoulders no longer look like a man who uses his body as a fulcrum, but I’m also not a T-Rex cyclist build either. We are defined by our lifestyles, our individual human condition and some combustible drive we can both describe but cannot define, however through our efforts and the collection of people we attempt to put words and images to it.
We all need structure, we are creatures of habit, integrity and influences. A collidiscope of images, experiences and people. I have learned to be loved, to allow a few good quality people into my life, to be soft and rounded. We all have acts in life and if we’re lucky the number climbs with age and we become muses and thespians, characters and friends. A bike and a drive brought me these people, a four hundred dollar two wheeled machine allowed me to stretch my legs and shed a skin I hated and never felt like myself in, that two wheeled machine allowed me to tramp down the divide, a couple podiums, pondered life in the aspens and thin air, but more importantly brought a wave of souls to me that I’m inspired by, encouraged, defeated by and laugh with, and days and nights are not lonely or misplaced now.
Some of the biggest pillars of my life have died, I feel a solace that I helped in some way, and that I was helped by a worn out bike that allowed me to leave death beds for mountains, unattended funerals to rivers and given the time to realize in effort of pedals turning over days to months. As a kid anxiously waking his tired father before day break on the only day he didn’t work, I’d make coffee, have the truck loaded and warmed up to becoming a balding, grey spattered bearded man reaching towards forty the thing my latest mentor and I agree on is the start line. There is no substitute for miles, for effort, for saddle time, for heart, lungs and soul. That the economics end to some degree on that damned line, you can look like a million bucks, but effort brings out the nature of who and what we are, I was surprised that him and I where dead on in that regard. He sat at the end of the table and waved a finger at me and said, “That’s exactly right JP” We both know you can’t fake it forever. That those with minimal hallways lead to the shortest corridors of perspective and places, those who seek gratification over gratitude.
In the morning we woke up around five, loaded up bikes and hit the shootout in Tucson, and he did what he does best. Boast of the hogs in front, playing on the feelings and emotions of those in the group and saying “I don’t know who those boys are” to saying yea, “That one is my turbo diesel, and that one’s my boy” I could hear pride and happiness in his voice, he too was alive, healthy and surrounded by people he’s always wanted, again, a person I would’ve thought I would never have anything in common with, the doctor and a mason, a masters and a laborer, but we’re the same on two wheels, pride went through my body and I cranked on the pedals with a smile, knowing I’ve reached a spot in life I’ve always wanted, and these situations and people where brought on by effort, bikes and honesty. A chain, some gears, a couple tires and something to slow you down, we can be as big or as little as we want to be in life. Even my relationship with my parents has greatly improved by realizing who we all are, that nothing will change that last name, but we can change the history and live out loud
Florescent garage lights flicker as my eyes hemorrhage to gain vision. The house is cold and the only noise comes from Mr. Coffee percolating the caffeinated goodness, I swipe the ipad to Pandora and now tunes fill the space I share alone with my thoughts. My lips meet the hot coffee in a porcelain cup as the rest of me attempts to awake from the fog of sleep. I know as soon as I hit the garage door button more blast of cold will cover me. It’s dark out and will be for hours, skin is exposed to bare air, crisp and cool it draws any moisture and makes me look older, I know however at 36 I’ve gained plenty of miles, most of them off the bike.
Fumbling for warmth, gloves and something to cover a bare scalp, I attempt to chug the heat from a cup for my last bit of reprieve from this lonely chill. Lumens now shoot towards my neighbor’s house and music attains my brain as cold heavy legs clip into contraptions that hold me to a machine. Everywhere my head turns, a narrow beam of light accompanies it, I wish my concentration could be as accurate.
It’s pavement for a couple miles, then the familiar trailhead. Darken empty parking lot, humble and chilly. I unlock the suspension, adjust a couple things and make my way to the rocky trials. My legs move like pistons, and my body the serpentine belt, but these glow plugs aren’t warm yet, the parts aren’t lubed and it seems a convoluted mess of things moving out of harmony. My heart thumps a faster rhythm than the rest of me want’s to, and it takes a while for the parts to find themselves and catch up, my brain however is still in thread counts and cotton.
Pockets of heat and depths of cold come and go in the hollers, every once in a while I’ll look for another light, but the better part of me knows I’m the only soul out here. It’ll be nearly 3 hours till the sun comes up, I know my music will be interrupted with emails from corporate back east, I also know I’m both doing good and evil to my body. Rocks kick up and splinter my chin, bringing me back to the realization I should pay attention and not on my finances, the sphere of life and makers mark. I stop at the next trailhead and look at my garmin held to the bike by electrical tape, it broke in the last crash and Chase bank said I can’t have another one. Coyotes and Javelinas are my only company, along with the bugs that sway in my headlight when I stop. The bike glides over the harsh earth and fully suspends me in air sprung comfort, giving further thanks to the relationships I’ve established since moving south.
First loves and fairy tales left handed diamond bands and life rolls on. I chuckle to myself, the cloud of breath hangs around my head like its waiting to be filled with quotations, instead I say fuck, where is the sun. I rumble through a bit of isolated singletrack and reach the backside of the mountain, random things sparkle in the rocks and dirt. Not all that shines like gold is golden, and not all efforts are even. The towers atop South Mountain are my only company; they blink in succession and mark their territory. I get to the top and turn back around and head toward San Juan and another random bit that doesn’t see much action, linking together sections of trail and asphalt, and then repeat the effort until finally the temperature dips a few degrees, then I know the sun is making its way to me.
I turn of the artificial light and allow the morning to come to me, set in my bones so I can feel its complete warmth, I know soon enough I’ll be too damned hot but that’s the motion of what we do. I sit on a cold rock on a good vantage point to watch the yellow orbs fingers of heat cover the valley, watch as they bend up the mountain and splash my face first then work its way down my body. I rarely during the week get to ride in the daylight, and while trying to balance life, love, money, work, events, and everything else it seems I’m more nocturnal than most. It’s a dance to ride in the dark, odd things stick out, your fall line changes in tunnel vision of light, your mind races of things you’ve think you saw. I’ve ate shit a time or two making the adjustment, “when Jonny p crashes in the woods does it make a sound” Yes, and usually the words are not sweet. Luckily barely anything is exposed so I’m just bruised but no blood.
Someone asked me what determination looked like the other day, and leaving my house before 4 am and seeing the glow of lights between my blinds and knowing its warm and cozy I imagined that’s it a little, the ability to shove off into the unknown, be humbled, emphatic, lost, confused but knowing we’ll be alright, that’s a brief description I’d give. Leaving something you know works for the betterment of us and our minds, friends and just plain ole exploration, chasing haunting fears and doubts.
I believe I’m a reclamation cyclist. Cobbled together things that were broken and forgot about, held together by glue I can’t describe and an unhealthy need to try everything. I found it early by way of getting away from situations, to be healthy, explore and come back home torn open, tired, bleeding but damn happy from an adventure, seeing rare parts of the globe. Your mind creates a wonder lust of what you saw and experienced, sometimes I’m a little wounded by seeing so many of these things alone, I’ve gathered many diamonds that have forever stuck with me. We all have crutches, shoulders and personal ambition; it’s the balance between them all that allows us to be creative. Life is for living, bikes suit anybody like a tailor fit, the further I got outside that knowledge my world came apart. We meet people that become bridges, allowing us to see and experience a different part of life, get across our own fears; this band of peddlers is the most sporadic and genius bunch I’ve met.
I really never thought of a career, never graduated college and barely made it through high school. A decades worth on the ocean, pounding nails, pouring concrete, skiing trees and riding bikes, that all sounded pretty rad to me, but understanding life doesn’t always have to be tough is a hard lesson for me to learn. In dating women they always see what could be, I tell them this is actually quite the refinement compared to what I use to be and do.
It’s not just about speed, but when we get twisted we find the purity of the effort when we swing a leg over a bike, then instead it becomes a magic carpet and away we ride. The older I get, the more happy I am to see the different scope of people on bikes, the endeavor is the same and I find a great deal of joy in that, sometimes I feel like I’m the vessel to go where they would like to, but can’t. Finding a purpose, revealing gratitude, having friends and quieting that internal mystery between our shoulders and ears, that’s a lot of the reasons I do it, it’s the only life I’ve known. Things could change in a year or ten, but the driving force will involve the machine itself, and the friends made along the way.
Fresh oil and newer tranny fluid, four nearly new tires not one bought at the same time, over a half tank of gas and full cup of coffee. A cargo minivan wrapped out in SRAM red lurches towards the freeway, loaded with toys, goodies and a weary driver, except my elves live in Indianapolis and Taiwan and I pay for all of my presents.
I press the far right pedal till I get to cruising speed, then a couple of clicks of buttons and my foot comes off the floor and I’m free to move about the cabin. My body and mind know what’s ahead, five hours of windshield time in a barren area. Time to get caught up on lost phone calls, deep thoughts, emails, and static over the airwaves. I don’t have a usb cable fancy radio player, it does however play cd’s. Instead though, I like to tune into whatever voices comes through the dense hills and humors me. Stations switch and become fuzz, that’s when you know you’re leaving your neck of the woods. Different lulls and highs mark out a different channel, and I scan the dial from Mexican tuba infused music to right wing all hail Jesus jobs.
This trip through the mesas to Vegas was marked with wind, gust of 30 mph plus, the two lane roadway cluttered with semi’s, RV’s, and wagons of all sorts headed north by northwest. Sort of an Oregon trail for reps who cover this territory. We cross lanes and buzz like fat bugs in a heavy breeze, we’ll either collide with each other or reach our destinations, at times, seems like either outcome is available. The cab whirls between gears in the symphonic noise of the 3.5 liter 212 cubic inch engine rolls down the highway with 240 galloping horses nearing 80 miles an hour.
The hours somehow seemed small, maybe due to my only two stops or the constant buzz of my phone from work emails, and all the things I’ve got to handle while in Las Vegas. After hours of staring at the brown tinted green desert you roll into the outskirts of Nevada, just above the damned lake. Walk in to drain your bladder and your eyes have to focus on the lights bursting everywhere like the fourth of July fireworks lighting up a midnight sky. Brightly shooting neon is everywhere and overbearing, and already I await my exit past this same casino hotel and back to the hills and the areas around my home.
I’ve been sleeping heavy lately, maybe because of the miles or just the energy needed for this time of year. After I roll into a king size bed I’ll flip through pages of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my favorites. Simplicity, you fool; is the answer to all of our ailments. And while I favor the purism of men like him and Norman Mclane, I sometimes delve into Hemmingway behavior however without the talent, nor the cash. I’ll nod off with the help of miles and scars oozing blood on my body, and the aid of a melatonin chewable and after some reading my mind wanders to an age of no sky scrapers, unobstructed views, honest people doing viable work to keep a style and comfort of living to keep them fed and warm. You see; simplicity.
I’ve come to believe the notion I’ve been broke so long I don’t know what feels right any longer. Different pains, growths, limps and rubs haunt me; but I love it. I screwed up my ankle and while conferring with another local endurance juggernaut I decided we should ride mountain bikes, then hike to more trails, then hike more and ride down. With a patch quilt ankle I bobbled a rock section tried to unclip and put weight on a right ankle that didn’t want any then promptly tumbled down a 10 foot chunky rock garden. You know you have good friends that know you’re not morbidly wounded and whip out their phone to capture your carnage and misfortune. But I did jab a rock with a rib bone off my back and after breaking a lot of them in my life, I’m moving and breathing like I have yet another one.
Fortunes favor the bold, and idiocy wins the tolerance award, I put out some long days right after and soon scooped up over 200 hundred of them by the time Monday morning rolled around. I like the thinking when your body is worked but knows there is more to do, and you shake like an addict for calories, you don’t want to slow the tempo to food but your mind and body aren’t on the same page. The cadence marches out a death roll that I force my body to keep or I’ll crumple to a 185 pound heap on side of the road.
Back to work and Vegas bound. With all the hotels booked up, a little gem came to my mind as Yeah Yeah Mcmaster and I tried to find a room for the night. Bonnie Springs is off the beaten path as they say, complete with a petting zoo, miniature train, gun fights and other oddities. It backs directly into the red rocks, the food is decent the atmosphere perfect and the bourbon poured neat and nice. You can hop on whatever bike you brought and go for a cruise, it’s very un Vegas and only a handful of miles away, all you can really see is the beam of light from the Luxor, other than that you’d think you were nowhere near Las Vegas. The beds where shitty, and a small scorpion greeted me in the shower, but laced with enough drink it was perfect and we passed out early.
It was a cold morning and peacocks clucked at each other as I opened the slider to our patio, I built up a new Rockshox charger dampner as puffs of cold air floated around my face as I drank nasty coffee. The mountain are beautiful and full of color their named for, much of me didn’t want to move, certainly not towards vegas. I would prefer to ride and explore the hills, sit by the fire and drink booker’s bourbon, write and think, but I’m a bike rep, not Anthony Bourdain.
Shops where busy, a good sign, lots of stops and getting caught up, more miles, more windshield time spent meeting new people and completing the rounds, sushi and sake for dinner and more views of Vegas. In the morning I tried to finish the rounds, it took force not to push home on the gps, but got everything wrapped up. Soon enough though, the wagon was cruising back to Chandler after two and a half days in Vegas. I stopped once for fuel and McMaster somehow was behind in the city I just left, two reps and better friends criss- crossing the territory. Less wind down the hill and again made decent time.
Friday was spent at home getting caught up on orders, laundry, bills, returning emails and conferring my future schedule, no riding Saturday more work, Sunday was spent With Hub Events and the Open water swim series that I donated swag for. Great event, better people and definitely on the calendar to both attend and participate. Afterwards I went up to Yeah yeahs house, met Melley at a gun range and spent the later afternoon clicking off rounds from 50-100 yards out on some targets, pretty fun actually. It’s crazy the schedules, cross races, swims, mtb events, triathlons, and rides. Sometimes it feels like I can’t catch my breath and I feel too spread out, most of me loves it, while the recluse goes a little stir crazy. Another 1,000 miles driven in a weeks’ time but it leads to my future and allows me the life I got, all worth it.
John Hammond burst through the speakers with songs written by Tom Waits, a blues guitar and harmonica in the key of G sets the mood and I get caught up on garage duty and a couple personal things. So much of our daily frame of mind is being forced by high paid execs and marketing folks. Beautiful people in mocked up glossy magazines, couture faces melded with some superficial expression, and bent in a way that nobody stands in or poses for that matter. Exes and storylines somehow we learn it’s not about us, we are the seconds that tick, compared to the hands of a clock. Words and sentiments, ideas and pre conceived notions, but we’re responsible for sharpening our own pencils to write our story. If we don’t others will for us and our own message will get lost in translations and versions others remember.
Routines and glass slippers, each needs something to fill them, each give us guidance a dream and hope. I think we all lose that everything is a memoir, everything lends us a form, it’s up to us to follow and see its guidance. Reform, shape shifters and second acts that’s how I see this dance. I’m not who I once was, nor are my friends and family. Decades and days we are mildly the same, mine are better with a bike, a slice of silence in a beautiful place, efforts spent and something to think back and on about.
Lend me eyes and allow the story and your imagination to make noise for your ears, disconnect from your appliances and give yourself adequate time to allow earnest thought and appreciation for what you and others do to propel the globe turning on our axis, because these truly are the days of our lives.
Of all that’s been written and what’s been said, we are all the movement we need to be in this life, there is no damned outside forces, only circumstances and time. Everyone should find a plain, an equal zone to realize all that we’ve accomplished, what’s still on the plate and the dates, times and action for the rest to be realized, achieved and earned, both within ourselves and those we need in our lives.
In the last two weeks I’ve been spread across the great state of Arizona, from the Mexican border, to Tucson, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff, back to Prescott twice and randomness in between. Back to my house for a night or two and shared time bike packing with friends on the Arizona trail 300, to new people on the trail and road.
The Arizona trail race spans from the Mexican border to the Utah line, with a portage of 20 plus miles through the Grand Canyon. I was signed up for the 300, which spits you out on US 60, just west of Superior. The route is front heavy, and just getting to Tucson is good, then up over Reddington Pass, then the slog to nearly 9,000 feet to Lemmon. After that you have a beyond technical descent to Oracle, after that you get a smoothness of sorts to the highway. I’m not new, I’ve been beaten, bruised, baptized and completed the tour divide. But this is a different beast all together, it’s the longest single track race in the world (the 750), its rocky, technical, slow and fucks with your body and mind.
I only made it to the half-way point, as a pully bolt backed out of its proper location causing some grief, slow, slow miles and more damn pushing than I care to think back on. The boys did well and trying to tackle this event for your first bike packing effort is a heavy task, it’s a straight up beautiful bitch. We looked for my pully for a while but in the dry earth burnt black from the sun and fires it wasn’t going to be found in this game of hide and seek. There is a lot for your eyes to take in, one of my reasons for bike packing is the pace, effort and new towns to roll into, allow it to cover you in mutual praise and look around while reconfiguring yourself, mind, body and give a brief rundown on the mass social media sights,” hey, look at me I’m going something cool, this is where I am”
The run to Patagonia wasn’t too bad I didn’t think a little walking and a flat tire but we made a good pace, after though, heading towards highway 83 it gets rocky, technical and slow. We rode till nearly midnight and I had a feeling of dread realizing the mileage to next stop ratio. We got a late start, and I knew that it was going to get funky soon. The last section to Tucson has plenty of get offs, I don’t mind hike-a-bike but the constant starting and stopping is a pain in the ass and makes my left knee pissed off.
After the great pully debacle of ’13 we broke the chain, mounted xx1 and cut 10 gears off the bike and made her a single speed, which it didn’t appreciate, at all. We chatted with some hikers not too far off the trail, said they may give me a lift to town, but after making such a slow pace I lost my patience and rode on, managing a meager 3-5 mph average, if I had a loaded gun the trigger may have been pulled.
Baking in the sun, my legs turning over like a rotisserie I was becoming a well done bird ready for a thanksgiving feast for any passerby or woodland creature to consume me. I was pissed off, aggravated and thought the whole bike was going to snap in half from the pressure, but I limped into a gas station, saw Taylor walked in, cracked a beer, grab food and paid. To the reply of the lady,
“did you see the sign no open containers on patio” I said I’d conceal it and we bid adieu till the next wave of food had to be ordered. Taylor called Mary and the rescue mission began, I recovered from my heat stroke and sat on the wooden planks of the store and thought about the world, slow fucking miles, the idea of a god damn DNF, my bike, and all the other ideas and thoughts that flutter in the grey matter of my head.
I got home not too late tore apart another rear derailleur, patched up the bike, fixed some of its ailments and got up to go pre-ride the whiskey 50 course in Prescott with friends. Out on the berm’d single track my frustrations ironed out, the easiness of the idea itself made me relaxed, I thought about the bike, what its allowed me to do and how its allowed me to become who I am. Forget the falseness, find the realness, be who you are and who you want to be. I’m frustrated by my lack of physical affection, my hands and body want a place to land, explore, pleasure and download, have my lips speak the sweetness of someone’s name in a affectionate way, but that right now is my only gripe so I said fuck it and rode some hi desert flowy trail.
I had a heavy work week, shop visits owners and managers that I had to see, take their pain away and ride bikes. I packed up the SRAM wagon with a weeks’ worth of riding clothes, samples, sleeping gear, food and all the other rep accoutimon that we need. I rolled into Flagstaff at sunset, streaking colors lit up the sky and I was at peace in the laid back attitude of the town. I met up the Patrick Kell of IMBA for a beer and some chatting, along with a guide from Sedona and another IMBA supporter from Tucson. Good to catch up, see what I can do to help/promote, and try not to get in the way.
In the morning I rode some of the AZ trail and other connecting ripping single-track. I found large patches of snow, plenty of downed trees and thought about the dichotomy of the state, two hours south it’s saguaro cactus, hot and dusty. Packed up the rig and hit a handful of shops, the attitude and shops are completely different, and I dig it. Some food, and point the rig south by south west towards Prescott and the Whiskey 50. I got the Rockshox ride experience to come out, my first event as a rep with some company support and I was stoked, let the public see the company show them some local support and fan the stoke.
Camped out in the van, I had a 7 am conference call with World Bicycle Relief, if you don’t know much about it check it out, amazing to see what a bike does for a country mired in conflict. Sitting in a cool coffee shop in Prescott the locals chatted, I took some notes on WBR and was met by some new friends from Colorado. Finish up the conference call, chow some food, fix a quick flat then take some people up on the race course for a little recon. Turning around I passed all the greyhound pro’s some I know from back in the day and those I’ve drank and wrestled with.
Meet up with Andy and his girl Karle from the Rockshox ride experience, get set up and get people on our new stuff, help out some racers and get ready for the pro men’s and woman’s crit in the downtown square that zoomed right in front of us. Great crew at SRAM the more I get to know the company and the people the more I feel like I am in the exact place where I supposed to be. The festivities kicked off, bikes where ridden and beers drank. Friday night was fairly chill, all the people racing Saturday so the town wasn’t flooded yet. I was a little bummed I wasn’t lining up as I’m fitter than last year but I was happy running the booth, getting people on our products and changing the way they thought about us.
All my friends had a good race and I was happy for them, no major issues. Spent a good nearly 12 hours in the booth on Saturday, then the party kicks off. Epic rides does it right and it was great to see the tension on everyone’s face be relieved of its stress by having the race over and done with and they can now focus on fun and good times had. Tunes and beer gardens take over the town, I met up with the crew and those from Washington state.
Sunday back at it up and early, in the booth helping the pros get ready for any last minute checks and tweaking, people coming out to demo some bikes. Amazing to see how fast the pro’s charge the course and make us all feel mortal and give us the attitude check we need from time to time. All the other vendors begin the break down, Andy was kind enough to let me get out of town a little early. Scoop up Hunter who needed a ride back south. Out on the patio of the liquor deli was a plethora of mountain bikers having a chill beer on a patio, all laughing, joking and smiling it’s a good life.
A couple hour drive south, joined this time by someone else’s voice, the miles went quick and all I could think about was my home, showers, hammocks pools and the idea of the attainable girl who drives me crazy in good ways. I dropped of my co-pilot, got to my house, hit the garage door clicker and it opened the envelope that is my life as bikes and gear revealed themselves too me as it got higher. I was comforted by the fact that I’m creating all that I’ve ever wanted, missing a piece or two but I’m allowing myself to experience the truth in places, people and the times.
I walked into my backyard, stripped myself of nearly a weeks’ worth of road trip miles, exhibition/demo days, and riding clothes jumped in my pool and was washed by my week, the new faces met, new experiences conquered and miles driven and ridden. I’m back at it this weekend for the Sedona single track fest, then Tucson, Vegas and all points between. If you see the SRAM wagon holler at your boy, lets ride some bikes, laugh at ourselves and find what G-Love says, “Peace, love and happiness”